Martha’s Vineyard boys beat Westwood 89-69

Martha’s Vineyard boys beat Westwood 89-69

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Izak Browne (left) and center Charlie Everett battle the Westwood Wolverines in the first half of MIAA action Wednesday evening. — Photo by Eva Faber

The Martha’s Vineyard boys basketball team continued their thrilling postseason run Wednesday with a convincing 89-69 win over Westwood in Taunton, in the Division 3 South Semifinals of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).

With the win, the second-seeded Vineyarders advance to the South Sectionals championship game against first-seeded Wareham Saturday, at noon at Umass-Boston. It is the first time the Vineyarders have played in a South Sectional championship game in at least 20 years.

The win helped wipe away the bad taste of the Vineyarders’ heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Cardinal Spellman last year in the Division 3 South semifinals.

A large contingent of Vineyard fans traveled with the team to the cavernous gymnasium at Taunton High School Wednesday. Many wore the purple and white team colors, some wore face makeup, and a few students painted the letters spelling out ‘Vineyard’ on their bare chests.

Those who traveled to watch the game were treated to another dominant performance by the Vineyarders, who used a 16-point run in the third quarter to turn what was, at the time, a one-point lead into an easy 20-point victory.

The fourteenth-seeded Wolverines lived up to their team name and were feisty early, hitting six three-pointers in the first half, all by junior Joe Lally and senior Glenn Parsons, to trail only 39-33 at the break.

The Vineyarders played well in the first half, anchored by junior guard Jack Roberts, who scored 27 points in the game and 15 in the first half. Roberts did it all early, running the offense, stealing the ball, and hitting three pointers, but the Wolverines kept things close.

Coach Mike Joyce said he told his team at halftime to ratchet up their intensity.

“They were out-defending us – they had great heart and great intensity. We needed to match that, and I think we did in the second half,” he said. “I also said we had to shut down their three-point shooters. Those were wide open shots they were making.”

The Wolverines scored the first five points of the third quarter to pull within one at 39-38, just 1:30 into the quarter, but the Vineyarders buckled down and started to pass the ball better and defend the perimeter to fuel a 16-0 run.

In four minutes, the Vineyard had taken a commanding 58-41 lead, and the Wolverines never got within 14 points the rest of the game. Izak Brown came off the bench and gave the team a lift in the second half, scoring 16 points in the game and pulling down several key rebounds.

Peter Keaney, who scored 27 and 21 in the previous two tournament games against Dedham and Bishop Feehan, scored 12 for the Vineyarders. Ryan Fisher got into foul trouble early but still scored 9, while Charlie Everett and Delmont Araujo each had 8.

After the game Coach Joyce said the win was a true team effort, although he praised Roberts for setting the tone.

“Jack was huge for us tonight. He hit a few three-pointers when things were getting close, and he had a good game passing the ball. He was huge,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Roberts said the entire team played well.

“We’ve had trouble coming out of the second half and tonight we played great defense. It was the best game of our season,” Roberts said.

If the Vineyarders win Saturday against Wareham, they will play next week in the Eastern Massachusetts Championship game at TD Garden in Boston.